I grew up in Brampton, that far-off big-little city of Jamaicans, Punjabis and Newfoundlanders. If you rolled with the cultural collision, it was the best place to grow up. (If you couldn’t, you moved?) Brampton is a happy-weird demographic accident of the GTA. Where rainbow packs of friends are common and ethnicity figures prominently in your day-to-day interactions but isn’t necessarily a problem so much as a curiosity to be explored.
After five years in Toronto, nothing’s brought me closer to that feeling than Pomme Is French For Apple. In August I spent an hour cackling with laughter – like you only do with your closest – when I caught the show at Best of Fringe. Its mandate is delivered plain-spoken within the first few minutes by stars/creators Liza Paul and Bahia Watson: “Pomme is French for Apple – and yardie for pussy.”
THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I love this story – about sex and women and fools you can only suck your teeth at – the way it’s told, the feelings it inspires and the girls who tell it. I have not laughed harder this year; nor have I been more impressed at what is going on in this city and who, despite what Toronto Life or the Worthy 30 tells me, is relevant.
Pomme’s been in production for two years and is so good I’m going to watch it again, this Sunday, September 23 at the Drake Hotel where it runs as part of the Just For Laughs Festival. Tickets ($15) will be available at the door. But first, I just had to talk to Bahia and Liza about brown girls, jokes and theatre in Toronto.
How did you guys meet?
Liza: We were both doing an artistic residency at d’bi.young anitafrika’s theatre. We were all working on solo pieces in the program and most people’s pieces had a tinge of sadness – but mine wasn’t and Bahia’s wasn’t either, we had jokes in ours. So after the program ended, in September of 2009, we decided to keep writing together.
Bahia: I was working on a one-woman show called In Search of Shaniqua Jenkins and Liza was working on her show called Everybody Wan Catch A Screw and it was just this vibes thing. We didn’t know what we were working on or toward but thought we’d write and set some deadlines.
Were you both already involved in performance and theatre?
L: When I started I was the associate producer at Soulpepper and d’bi approached me before she opened her theatre to do some PR. My whole job was making contracts and writing emails but I was in such a creative environment so I was like “I think I want to tell stories too, but I don’t know what that looks like.” I wasn’t able to articulate what I wanted beyond that. So I told d’bi, and that was a terrifying email to send because, living in the administrative world there’s artists and administrators and the two shall never meet. Until then I had no experience with writing or performing – nor was I sure that’s what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to write something and maybe it would be funny.
B: I didn’t go to theatre school but that didn’t reflect how much I knew or cared. The way d’bi works is so interesting because it’s a great, safe space for getting to know yourself as an artist. It’s very liberating.
That sounds like something that is unique to the “theatre world.” Does that exist in Toronto?
L: If it does I don’t know about it.
B: It was a very unique space in the people it brought together and the feeling. Continue reading